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Carlos Alcaraz escapes French Open five-set thriller

Carlos Alcaraz

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 25: Carlos Alcaraz of Spain reacts against Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain during the Men’s Singles Round 2 on Day Four of The 2022 French Open at Roland Garros on May 25, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

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A memorable duel between Carlos Alcaraz and a veteran Spanish left-hander came a week early at the French Open.

Alcaraz, the 19-year-old Spanish phenom tipped by many to win Roland Garros, outlasted 34-year-old journeyman countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7 (7), 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 to reach the third round. It marked the longest match of Alcaraz’s young career at more than four and a half hours.

“I feel tired,” Alcaraz said on court. “It has been a great battle. We fought until the last point.”

Ramos-Vinolas, a clay-court specialist whose lone major quarterfinal came at the 2016 French Open, served for the match, with a match point on his racket, in the fourth set. He was also up 3-0 in a fifth set that included six breaks of serve.

“I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world,” Alcaraz said. “I’m still young, but I would say pretty experienced player now. Well, I feel comfortable playing on big stadium, big matches, playing on Grand Slam. As I said, physically I’m strong. Mentally I’m strong, as well. I think I’m ready to play these kind of matches.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Alcaraz previously beat Ramos-Vinolas in his ATP Tour match debut, at age 16 in a decisive set tiebreak at 3 a.m. in the February 2020 Rio Open in Brazil.

Alcaraz drew comparisons over the last year to Rafael Nadal, who won his first of a record 13 French Open titles at age 19 in 2005. Last year, Alcaraz was asked to pick out one piece of advice he’s received from Nadal.

“The intensity he train, no?” he said. “He train with a lot of intensity all the time. He hit the ball very hard. Each ball, he try to hit harder every ball.”

Alcaraz rocketed up the rankings this season with titles in Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona and Madrid, riding an 11-match win streak into Wednesday. He beat Nadal and Novak Djokovic on back-to-back days at his last tournament in Madrid.

“The only thing that we can do is enjoy the career of an amazing player like Carlos,” Nadal said earlier this month. “Will be better, even if it’s interesting, you stop comparing him on me.”

The No. 6 seed Alcaraz next plays 27th seed American Seb Korda, the last man to beat Alcaraz. He could later face No. 3 Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals and Nadal or Djokovic in the semifinals.

Zverev reached the third round by saving a match point in the fifth set of a 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 win over 36th-ranked Argentine Sebastian Baez.

No. 1 Djokovic swept 38th-ranked Alex Molcan of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (4). Molcan is coached by Djokovic’s former coach Marian Vajda.

Nadal beat French wild card Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 for a place in the third round.

In the women’s draw, the bottom half has been blown wide open with top-10 upsets. Two Americans are now leading contenders to make the final.

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